Travel Black Book with Joseph Mak

Pretty as a picture

Bolivia has fascinating landscapes such as a colour-changing lagoon and the world's largest salt flat

Who: Singaporean travel photographer Joseph Mak, 38. He is married and has a five-year-old daughter.

Favourite destination: Bolivia

Why: Since studying photography six years ago, I have enjoyed taking photographs of landscapes.

Bolivia has some of the world's most fascinating natural landscapes. You can find a lagoon that changes colour at different times of the day, steam rising from a geyser, a pot of mud bubbling away and the world's largest salt flat.

Bolivia also has great trekking and unique flora and fauna. These are the reasons I want to return to explore more of the country.

Favourite hotel

Los Flamencos Hotel ( is next to the saline lake Laguna Hedionda and you can see hundreds of flamingos nearby.

In another country, this might not be considered a luxury hotel, but given the climate and tough conditions in this deserted and remote area, which is a four-hour drive from the nearest city of Uyuni, you could consider it a five-star property.

Surrounded by beautiful landscapes, the eco hotel is comfortable and has all the basic amenities. It also has Wi-Fi, which is free for guests from 7 to 9pm. Room rates start at US$135 (S$183) a night, inclusive of breakfast and dinner.

Must try

Quinoa, a grain native to South America, can be served in soup or by itself like rice and is a staplein this area. It has anti-inflammatory properties.

I also tried llama meat, which is served widely in Bolivia. The animal is bred for wool, milk and meat. It was an exotic experience. The meat is slightly tougher than beef but, surprisingly, it does not taste as gamey as I expected.

Must do

A day trip to Uyuni Salt Flat, the world's largest salt flat, is a must. The amazing white expanse gives the appearance of white clouds floating on the ground and is one of the most spectacular sights.

In the middle of the salt flat is Isla Incahuasi or Cactus Island, a bizarre rock island made of fossilised coral with hundreds of giant cacti growing on it, at an elevation of 3,656m.

It used to be the top of an ancient volcano, which was submerged when the area was part of a giant prehistoric lake about 40,000 years ago.

At Laguna Colorada, the sight of flamingos is amazing. The lake is a breeding ground for algae, which turns the water shades of red. The colour changes at different times of the day and, set against the white mineral base of the lake, it looks just like a painting.

The pink algae and phytoplankton in the lake are the favourite foods of flamingos. Every year, they fly here to feast, and I was awestruck by the sight of thousands of birds swarming over the lagoon.

You cannot end your trip to Bolivia without visiting the hot water geysers at El Tatio, where you can see steam rising from cracks in the earth. The steam blending with the sky at sunrise is a beautiful scene.

Favourite neighbourhood

Coqueza Canton is a small settlement of about 100 people located at the foot of Volcano Tunupa. Here, you find llamas roaming and grazing on the grass, as well as an impressive view of the volcano against the reflection of the salt flat.

Best hidden find

Outside Uyuni is the Train Cemetery, where 19th-century steam trains were abandoned when the area's mining industry died. The steel trains have been corroded by the salty winds from the nearby salt flats.

Ideal length of stay

You need at least seven days to cover the main tourist route, from Lake Titicaca in the north to La Paz, and to Uyuni Salt Flat.

Recommended reading

Understanding the culture is important and I recommend reading a book about the Inca civilisation to learn about the intelligent people and how they navigate and survive in the desert. You may be surprised to see small settlements of Incas still living in the harsh conditions of the desert.

Traveller's advice

Pack the strongest sunscreen and moisturiser. The sun in Bolivia is very strong and the country is very dry.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 11, 2016, with the headline 'Pretty as a picture'. Print Edition | Subscribe